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Claude Steele      

Social Psychologist & Stereotype Expert

Dr. Claude Mason Steele, a social psychologist, is the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley. His groundbreaking research addresses some of the most pressing contemporary problems in American society.

He began his academic career at the University of Utah. After two years, he joined the faculty at the University of Washington. In 1987, he became professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan, he was also a research scientist at the Institute for Social Research. In 1991, he accepted his present position at Stanford University, where he helped to establish the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

For more than three decades, Steele's research has focused on three critical social problems: addictive behaviors, especially alcohol abuse; the effects of threats to self-esteem on behavior; and the experience and impact of being negatively stereotyped. It is his work on the insidious consequences of being victimized by negative stereotyping that has prompted debate about how best to encourage minority achievement and implement affirmative action policies. He first became interested in the topic of stereotypes when he was asked to serve on a university committee examining student recruitment and retention. After observing the problems of well-qualified African American students, he designed the first of many research studies to help identify their causes. His work led to a new theory about the role of stereotypes in achievement and identity formation, which he called stereotype threat. His theory and findings show that individuals' awareness that they might be the target of stereotyping can erode their performances in competitive settings. He has also been able to identify ways to minimize the disadvantage caused by stereotype threat. The University of Michigan, for example, has implemented his ideas in its academic programs, reducing the frequency of dropouts among African American college students and improving the school achievement of minority and non-minority student alike.

Attracting scholarly and popular attention, Steele's work has helped explain the allegedly poorer performance of members of ethnic minority groups in certain academic fields and of women working in mathematics. In addition, Steele has conducted seminal research on the cognitive processes underlying alcohol use and abuse. He and his research team have developed an important theory of alcohol abuse and stress-induced drinking called alcohol myopia.

Steele is president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Society. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. He is the recipient of the William James Fellow Award of the American Psychological Society and the Don Campbell Award for career scientific contributions in social psychology from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology.

Speech Topics

The Effects of Negative Stereotypes on Performance at the College Level

The Impact of Stereotypes on Intellectual Performance and How to Reduce Their Unwanted Effects

Stereotype and Identity Threat: Toward a Science of Diverse Communities


Stereotyping scholar to speak at Tufts commencement May 19 ...

Claude M. Steele, whose research revolutionized our understanding of how stereotypes influence group performance from academics to athletics, will deliver  ...

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